Protesting farmers occupy European Commission Offices

MEMBERS of the IFA National Livestock Committee recently occupied the offices of the European Commission in Dublin against the EU/Mercosur trade negotiations.

MEMBERS of the IFA National Livestock Committee recently occupied the offices of the European Commission in Dublin against the EU/Mercosur trade negotiations.

Leading the County Offaly delegation at the overnight protest John Keena who remarked that the negotiations pose a ‘multi-billion euro threat’ to the European and Irish agriculture sector adding that the European Commission cannot allow agriculture and food security to be sacrificed. A recent COPA study has put the cost of a deal for the European beef and livestock sector at up to €25bn.

With the negotiations set to resume in Brussels in the next week, Mr Keena stated that the European Commission cannot give in to the South Americans and must safeguard the fundamental principle of community preference in the Common Agriculture Policy.

“Given the importance of agriculture and beef and livestock to the Irish economy, farmers will be looking to the new Government to take up this issue, which is of vital national interest, at the highest level in the EU Commission. The negative impact from a Mercosur deal would seriously damage our economic recovery and inflict major job losses at farm and industry level across the country.”

Mr Keena continued, “The demand from South America for a huge increase in imports would destroy the European steak market and severely damage beef prices in Ireland and across European markets. The EU cannot hand over half of our high value steak market to the South Americans, who fail to meet EU food safety standards.”

Offaly IFA Livestock Chairman John Keena also highlighted the fundamental contradictions in the EU policy on trade, climate change and sustainability.

“On the one hand, Europe claims to be concerned about sustainability and a leader on climate change. On the other hand the EU is prepared to accept a major increase in beef imports from Brazil and other South American countries where a recent EU study found the carbon footprint is up to 4 times higher than Irish beef.”

According to the IFA, Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from imported Brazilian beef are estimated at 80kgs CO2-eq/kg, compared to only 19kgs CO2-eq/kg from Irish suckler beef production. In addition, the IFA highlighted that Brazil is burning up to 2.15m hectares of rainforest on an annual basis, an area half the size of Ireland’s agricultural area. Most of this deforestation is attributable to an increase in cattle production.